ATHLETICS : Braithwaite fulfilling his fastest dream

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The Independent Online
Pausing midway through his umpteenth interview, Darren Braithwaite glanced up at a television screen as ITN News showed Darren Braithwaite beating Linford Christie in the KP Invitation 60 metres at Birmingham on Saturday.

At 26, all the things he had hoped would one day happen to him were happening to him. A time of 6.54sec - his fourth personal best at 60m this season - had proved sufficient to inflict upon Christie only the third indoor defeat of his career in a decade. A 60m place in the World Indoor Championships alongside Christie - who had belatedly announced his intention to compete - looked assured. For an athlete previously best known as The Man Who Dropped The Baton at the 1994 European Championships, life was sweet.

Braithwaite, who runs once more against Christie in Stockholm tonight, can legitimately anticipate a memorable year. But he would do well to note the experience of the last Briton to beat the Olympic 100m champion, Mike Rosswess.

The European indoor bronze medallist, not normally a voluble character, was deeply and justifiably angry after the British Athletic Federation had failed to inform him that heats had been added to the 60m programme on Thursday.

Rosswess, working from a programme of events sent to him by the BAF earlier in the week, arrived two hours before the originally scheduled 60m race, but was too late to run in the heats.

"My family were all here to watch me," he said. "I am in the best shape of my life. All it would have taken was a telephone call." What most upset him, he said, was the indifference of the British coaches and the assertion by Ian Stewart, head of the BAF events management team, that he would not be paid as he had not run.

The afternoon went from bad to worse for him as Braithwaite excelled and Christie then announced his own plans for Barcelona. But Rosswess, with a personal best of 6.54, would almost certainly have made the final. And there - as he said, and as Braithwaite demonstrated - anything can happen.

Stewart conceded afterwards that the administrative oversight had been "unfortunate to say the least" and that Rosswess would almost certainly be paid. "Having said that, he should have checked," Stewart said. "The official start list is always put up in the team hotel. We tried to get a ninth lane laid, but IAAF rules say you can't run a final if you haven't run the heats."

Ironically, Rosswess did not need to use the team hotel because he lives only four miles away in Handsworth. But the lines of communication with athletes must be improved, and the onus is on the BAF events management to do it.

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